|The Destination of our Food Pilgrimage|
The first thing I do is go to the website. I want an incredible food experience, and not just a generic great food experience; I want a high-class, incredible, Japanese food experience. I had trolled around the Internet looking for a restaurant that might serve my needs, and then I came across Kusakabe. There was something about the understated quality of the design and the promise of a long meal that was irresistible. I clicked to reserve a table and immediately realized that the restaurant was booked for a month. I don’t know how to explain this, but it made the restaurant seem almost perfect, like a paradise I needed to visit. And so I learned the first rule of an incredible food experience, not everyone can have it and you have to want it real bad.
A few days before we go, the restaurant called me to confirm my reservation. They asked me if this was a special event, such as someone’s birthday, and I was too shy to respond that for my friends and me the special event was merely going to dinner. Furthermore they asked me if anyone in my party had allergies. So the second rule of the great restaurant experience is that they have to contact you three days before and check your medical records.
I started to get dressed three hours before we were to go. Kusakabe has a dress code: “Semi formal is preferred. Shorts or sandals are NOT allowed. Please refrain from putting excessive perfume since it will affect the dining experience of other guests.” I generally don’t go to restaurants that have dress codes, but I have to say it made me feel swell as I was getting ready. We have become a sloppy dressing culture, where it’s almost a form of rudeness to wear nice clothes and so one of the pleasures of eating at this delightfully extravagant restaurant is that they gave us the excuse to delightfully and extravagantly dress up. They want us to eat the best and so we have to look the best, and so that’s the third rule of the great restaurant experience.
|Let's face it, we looked good.|
Not only do they demand that their patrons dress well, but also that them to smell nice, but not too nice. They were kind enough to mention the amount of perfume we were to wear, perhaps knowing that we might confuse good dressing with too much cologne. I felt so pampered and taken care of that it made me want to cry before we even left to eat. So the fourth rule is that you should smell delightfully right.
As soon as we entered the restaurant, the atmosphere was calm and quiet. I immediately lowered my voice to fit in and not disturb the other diners. It is one of the great losses of the present age that people consider fun with doing what they want instead of behaving in ways that account for the feelings of others. Or maybe, I was learning how to act by how well I was treated by the staff.
The staff greeted us with warm, crisp “welcomes,” like they had been waiting for us after a long journey. The maître de took us to our table and all I could think about was when should I sit down? How should I sit? How should I talk? I was worried that people might laugh at me, out me as a newbie, but instead we were treated as if we were kings. So I guess the fourth rule of the fine dining experience is to let the staff lead you and respond to kindness with kindness.
|So subtly elegant in its decor|
Kusakabe is not big, and they just have enough waiters to serve every table. The design of the restaurant is calm and peaceful. Most of the furniture is made of wood, which feels much more human than plastic. The kitchen is open and so you can see the cooks at work. And the tables are extremely clean, simply decorated but precise. I felt as if they had worked with great care to make me and everyone else feel comfortable. So the fifth rule of the fine dining experience is: “Clean and very organized.”
There are two different possibilities on the menu: 19 dishes or 25 dishes. We decided on 25 since we will never have the money to come back here, and so why not, we decided to splurge. Within 10 minutes the waiters were around us with plates full of food. Somehow they choreographed it so that all three of us were served at the same time, which is amazing because the plate always came from behind us. We never saw a rude arm reaching across the table. So the sixth rule of the fine dining experience: Always from behind!
When I put the first nigiri in my mouth, the fish melted like butter. It was life changing and made me realize that I had never really eaten shushi before, just some imitation of the ideal. For a moment I imagined that they had just grabbed the fish from the sea and prepared it for me. I normally don't like to eat sea urchin, but that day I fell in love with urchin. I honestly don't understand how anyone could return to normal food after this. How would I? So the sixth rule of the great restaurant experience is that the food should be so wonderful that you can’t imagine how you’re ever going to eat again.
I do feel that it’s important to mention one small mistake. One of my party’s soup was plated in a double layer glass cup, and my friend found the inside layer of his glass cup broken. We were shocked! This is the last place in the world you would expect such a thing to happen. Luckily, there wasn't any broken glass in the soup. When we told our waiters what happened, they were shocked too. They immediately apologized and called the manager. Soon, the manager came out with the chef to personally apologize for what happened to us. They bowed and apologized with a sincerity that far exceeded this unfortunate faux pas. We decided to forgive them. So the seventh rule of the great restaurant experience is that they take accidents more seriously than you do.
When we realized we had spent over 2 hours at Kusakube, we were surprised. Time had passed so quickly and in such a delightful manner. We had dressed up, been treated like royalty, eaten the food of the gods, had the management bow to us, and laughed. So the eight rule of the great restaurant experience is that it’s all so wonderful that it seems like a dream.
I’d like to thank my mother and father for the money to go to Kusakube and my teacher John Wilkins for coming up with such a sly idea to get my parents to pay for a night out with my friends.
©Marco Pan and the CCA Arts Review